Education & Training

Capital Litigation Initiative: Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics Training

Webinar 20: Emerging Issues in Forensic Genealogy

Emerging Issues in Forensic Genealogy
November 17, 2020
1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EDT

In Emerging Issues in Forensic Genealogy, Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) Consultant, Barbara Rae-Venter discussed the Golden State Killer (GSK) case and the methodology used to identify DeAngelo as a suspect. Also included, with permission, are some slides from Stephen Kramer of the Los Angeles field office of the FBI whom Barbara worked with on the GSK case. This case illustrates not only the power of IGG but the enormous cost savings and minimal intrusiveness, amongst other benefits, of IGG vs traditional law enforcement (LE) research.

In the second half of this webinar, Tiffany Roy, Forensic DNA Expert, covered emerging trends in forensic genetic genealogy (FGG). The presentation bridged the gap between science and law by explaining the differences in the scientific testing used for databases like GEDmatch, compared to traditional STR testing used by government labs today. The differences in information obtained through this new testing are discussed along with the legal issues presented by these differences. Finally, the Department of Justice interim guidelines on FGG were reviewed, along with database user agreements and potential legal issues that can arise in an investigation employing FGG.

Barbara Rae-Venter, J.D., Ph.D., is a retired intellectual property attorney who specialized in the patenting of biotechnology inventions. She earned a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin Law School, a B.A. double major in Psychology and Biochemistry, and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California at San Diego.

Through the use of investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) techniques, Ms. Venter has been able to identify the abductor of Lisa Jenson, three victims of the Allenstown Four murders, and the Golden State Killer. IGG is now being used to solve many previously “unsolvable” cold cases.

Ms. Venter was recognized for her work by the journal Nature as one of “10 People Who Mattered in Science in 2018” and was named among the Time 100: Most Influential People of 2019.

Tiffany Roy, MSFS, JD is a Forensic DNA expert with over fourteen years of forensic biology experience in both public and private laboratories in the United States. Ms. Roy holds degrees from Syracuse University, Massachusetts School of Law and University of Florida in the areas of Biology, Law and Forensic Science. She instructs undergraduates at Palm Beach Atlantic University; University of Maryland; and Southern New Hampshire University.

Ms. Roy currently acts as a consultant for attorneys and the media in the area of forensic biology through her firm, ForensicAid, LLC and has provided expert witness testimony in more than 100 state, federal and international court cases. Aside from her teaching, writing and consulting, she also assists with international capacity building initiatives, providing subject matter expertise for trainings for criminal justice stakeholders in the Middle East and Africa.

Moderator José R. Almirall is a Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry, Director Emeritus of the International Forensic Research Institute at Florida International University and Director of the NSF-funded Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS). He was a practicing forensic scientist at the Miami-Dade Police Department Laboratory for 12 years, where he testified in over 100 criminal cases in state and federal courts.

Professor Almirall has authored one book and over 150 peer-reviewed scientific publications in the field of analytical and forensic chemistry. He has served on several national forensic science boards including as chair of the Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis scientific area committee (SAC) of the OSAC and as a member of the DOJ-sponsored Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLNTWG). Dr. Almirall was appointed as the Scientist in Residence at the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law, Stetson University College of Law in May 2017.

Course materials:

This webinar is designed for both prosecutors and defense attorneys. Attendees who complete this webinar will be eligible for Continuing Legal Education credits. The Stetson Office of Professional Education will work with each individual participant for reporting specifics. CLE applications will be made to Florida and other states per individual requests. Please email ope@law.stetson.edu for further information and state specific requests.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-CP-BX-K006 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.